Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

May 19, 2022

OREGON: Permanent heat illness rules take effect June 15, 2022

Safety and Health 

Oregon OSHA recently adopted permanent heat illness prevention rules, which apply to all workplaces (general industry and agriculture), as well as employer-provided housing, effective on June 15, 2022. In 2021, Oregon OSHA created temporary heat illness rules (as we reported in an Alert last year), but they expired. When the permanent rules go into effect, you’ll be able to find them on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website under OAR 437-002-0156 (workplaces in general industry), OAR 437-004-1131 (workplaces in agriculture), and OAR 437-004-1120 (agriculture labor housing).

Covered workplaces: The workplace rules apply when an employee is performing work in an environment (whether indoors or outdoors) where the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) or higher, with some additional requirements if the heat index reaches 90°F.

Exempt workplaces: The following workplaces and situations are fully exempt from the workplace heat rules: (1) incidental heat exposures (no more than 15 minutes of work activities in a 60-minute period); (2) exposures to heat generated by work processes such as an oven or kiln (in which case you must comply with Oregon’s general duty requirement to control work conditions or effects on employees when work processes create harmful or hazardous temperature and humidity conditions); (3) emergency operations to protect life or property or to restore essential services; and (4) buildings with mechanical ventilation systems that keep the heat index below 80°F. Other workplaces are partially exempt from some portions of the rules, as follows: (1) workplaces in which employees’ physical exertions are classified as “rest” workloads (such as reading) or “light” workloads (such as standing watch or driving a car) are exempt as long as the heat index is less than 90°F; (2) support activities for wildland firefighters are exempt from the acclimatization requirements; and (3) employees working from home are only subject to the training and training documentation requirements.

Heat index: Many requirements in the rules are based on the heat index (apparent temperature). For more information about what the heat index is and how to determine it, see the National Weather Service’s Heat Safety Tools webpage, as well as the Federal OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool.

Water and access to shade: The workplace rules require employers to provide areas of shade that are readily available when the heat index in the working area is 80°F or higher. The rule sets out other requirements for shade areas, including that they must either be open to the outside air or have mechanical ventilation for cooling, and be large enough to accommodate the number of employees resting. Employers must also provide drinking water to all employees when the heat index is 80°F or higher. The drinking water must always be readily available and must be either cool (66 – 77°F) or cold (35 – 65°F). You will need to provide enough water so that each employee can consume 32 ounces per hour and provide ample opportunities for employees to drink water.

High heat practices: The workplace rules require employers to take additional measures when the heat index reaches 90°F. For example, you must establish a communication system so that employees can contact a supervisor at any time. Employers must also implement at least one of the following to check for heat illness: (1) regular communication with employees working alone; (2) a mandatory buddy system; or (3) another equally effective way of observing and communicating with employees. Employers must designate and equip one or more employees to be authorized to call for emergency medical services and allow other employees to call when designated employees aren’t available. In buildings with no mechanical ventilation, employers must also measure the indoor heat index and humidity. Employers must develop a written heat illness prevention rest break schedule that protects employees exposed to a heat index of 90°F or above. The rule provides a choice between three schedule options that require different frequencies and lengths of minimum cool-down rest breaks depending on the option you choose.

Emergency medical plan and acclimatization plan: Employers must have an emergency medical plan (consistent with existing rules for emergency medical plans at OAR 437-002-0161(4)) that addresses the types of medical situations employees could encounter related to excessive heat exposure. Employers are also required to have a written acclimatization plan to help workers gradually get used to working in high heat. The rule sets out two acclimatization plan options, and employers must implement the plan they choose.

Heat illness prevention plan: Employers must create and implement a written heat illness prevention plan that addresses certain topics, such as how workers will be trained on heat exposure hazards and prevention, how to recognize dehydration symptoms and respond to symptoms of heat illness, and how the employer will implement the cool-down rest break schedule.

Supervisor and employee training and documentation: Covered employers must provide annual heat illness prevention training to every employee. The training must include information on various topics, such as environmental and personal heat illness risk factors, the employer’s procedures for complying with the heat illness rule, and common signs and symptoms of heat illness. Written or electronic records of training must be kept and provided to Oregon OSHA upon request.

Employer-provided housing in agriculture: The rules also impose new requirements for operators of housing for agricultural laborers. When temperature control measures aren’t able to keep the indoor temperatures of rooms where people sleep at 78°F or less, the rules impose requirements to minimize heat in the dwellings and (when the heat index is 80°F or higher outside these housing units) to provide cooling areas. Employers must also display the indoor temperature, display the “Heat Risks in Housing” poster, and ensure residents have a reliable method to contact emergency services.

Tips: The description above is just a summary of key points, so make sure to read the new rules carefully and work with your Vigilant safety professional to ensure you have an effective plan to meet all the requirements that apply to your workplace. Vigilant will be updating its resources to help guide members through that process and better understand the heat illness prevention requirements. For more information and resources on heat illness, see Oregon OSHA’s heat stress web page.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.